Date appointed: 1/11/11
Senate Committee hearing date: 4/21/11
Senate Committee hearing vote: Confirmed 8-0
Senate vote date: April 26, 2011
Senate vote: Confirmed -- Unanimous, 35-0
"Joe Garcia is in a unique position to wear two hats in state government,” Hickenlooper said. “He is a known leader with tremendous expertise in education. He also understands the challenges facing higher education because he’s led a community college and a university. Allowing Garcia to serve in two roles will save money and serve the taxpayers of Colorado without compromising the work of the Lieutenant Governor’s Office or the Department of Higher Education. Joe will bring wisdom, experience and passion to the job."
Garcia most recently worked as president of Colorado State University-Pueblo and energized the campus by considering nontraditional solutions to longstanding issues. While there, he helped the school overcome stagnant enrollment, a mediocre reputation and financial difficulties.
He also worked with local alumni and parents to raise private funds to bring back a football program that had been abandoned in 1984. The effort, coupled with several new student-oriented facilities to make the campus more attractive, contributed to a two-fold increase in freshman enrollment at the school.
While it’s unclear whether legislation may be necessary, Hickenlooper is working with leaders in the General Assembly and the Attorney General to clarify that the Lieutenant Governor can concurrently serve in a Cabinet position if appointed and confirmed by the Senate.
Garcia would be serving in an unusual but not a unique role. His predecessor, Barbara O’Brien, also focused on education by co-chairing, with Garcia and Bruce Benson, the P-20 Task Force. She also led the state’s effort to acquire Race to the Top funding and she was an active leader in education reform.
Garcia, however, would also take on the responsibility of running an executive branch agency along with his Lieutenant Governor duties. His experience in running an executive branch agency under former Gov. Roy Romer and his decade of service as the president of a community college and a state university makes him both uniquely qualified to take on the additional responsibilities and well-suited to fully and diligently perform the duties of both roles.
Before he worked at CSU-Pueblo, Garcia was president of the second-largest community college in Colorado, Pike’s Peak Community College. There, he oversaw three campuses that serve more than 16,000 students annually. He earlier worked for the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies as the Executive Director. In this capacity, he managed and maintained budgetary responsibility for such Colorado divisions as Banking, Financial Services, Real Estate, Insurance, Civil Rights, Securities, and Public Utilities Commission. Garcia was appointed by Romer.
Garcia has continuously participated in community and non-profit organizations throughout his professional career. These experiences taught him to find solutions, not by driving a partisan agenda but by working with all stakeholders to reach a common ground. He and his wife, Dr. Claire Garcia, became deeply involved in public education when their own children entered grade school in Colorado Springs. Garcia served in roles as varied as PTO President to Legal Counsel for the District 11 School Board.
Born into a military family with deep roots in northern New Mexico, Garcia has lived in cities ranging from the Western United States to Western Europe. Garcia earned a business degree from the University of Colorado. He returned to Colorado after earning a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School because of the quality of life found here. An avid mountain biker and mountain climber in the summer and snowboarder in the winter, Garcia could not imagine calling anywhere else his home – and hopes to pass that tradition onto his children and grandchildren.
About the Department of Higher Education:
The Department coordinates policy and state resources for the state’s 28 public institutions, its private not for profit colleges, and its proprietary colleges, trade schools, and bible colleges. The Department of Higher Education oversees one major federal loan program and a 529 investment plan. The Department is divided into seven divisions: Colorado Commission on Higher Education, College Assist, CollegeInColorado.org, CollegeInvest, Colorado Historical Society, Colorado GEAR UP, and Division of Private Occupational Schools.